Jul 032017
 

Mark Sampson Photo by Mark Raynes RobertsAuthor photo by Mark Raynes Roberts

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Singles Bar for Zombies

Sure, the blonde sitting there at the bar
is hot in a conventional way: coffin-ready
curve to her dress, the way she cups her wine
like a chalice of blood. But tell me this:
Does she have brains?
You could talk to her till you’re green in the face.
She’ll just look through you with a deadened gaze.
Down here’s still better than up there
where the cars all burn till the sky is smoke.
This bar’s subterranean.
A waitress with no eyes asks: “Wanna
see a food menu?” With your worm-brown mouth,
you answer, “No thanks. I’ve already eaten.”

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Je, Zeus

My name means
nothing. Mark my
words. I will smite you
with my thunder-
bolts just as easily
as heal your blindness
or turn water into wine.

What is it with you,
storyteller, that you insist
our names speak
to some higher or more
subtle calling?
What chance did Joyce’s
Dedalus have?
What are we to make
of Margaret Atwood’s all-
seeing narrator named
Iris?
And explain to me how
the one morbidly
obese star pilot
in the squad that
confronted the Death Star
just happened to be named
Porkins?

We may be fictional characters
but we still have rights!

Some very unwise men
brought gifts to my birthday—
a party moved from Mount
Olympus to some shit-
soaked barn about a two-hour
drive from Tel Aviv—and
told everyone that I
was the son of God,
the sun that shone
out their asses.

I can’t handle this kind of pressure.

To spite my mother (raped
by an angel, but that’s
a whole other story)
and her exorbitant expectations
of me, I enrolled
in a carpentry class
at the local community college.
Forget it, boys! I said.
Pay no attention to the
deitous (yes, it’s a word!)
reference in my name.
This particle-board cabinet
isn’t going to assemble itself.

Surely I’m allowed
to pick and play
the life I want.
Surely I can choose
which cross to bear.
Fate’s not everything.
I’ve a real lock
on this tabula rasa.
Doesn’t everyone?

Lou Gehrig
died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Go figure.

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Open Ground Coke

A dented smile on the
sidewalk, a gap-toothed
tab-pulled Titan of sticky
sybaritic joy. I knew the can
was half full when I took
a kick at it.
I mean, you’ve really got to believe
in optimism if you’re going to leave
a partially drunk Coke on the ground.
Whoever she was, and she was, at least
to my mind, a she – the indifference of lip gloss
smeared across the can’s silvery rooftop,
indentation along its side
the result of a woman’s thin, thoughtful
finger (I mean, a dude would’ve just
drained it dry and then
crushed that sucker flat) –
she must have had faith in the
wealth of the world,
dreamt of the fecund pampas, farm fields
that promise an abundance of sugar cane;
a princess asleep in the certainty
that our polar ice caps are going nowhere.
Here’s the thing about a positive attitude:
You’re still here whether you have one or not.
If you spend too long thinking just how filthy
these sidewalks are,
you’ll stroll yourself straight into madness.
You’ll miss the open ground Coke
taunting us with its air of waste.
It’s a harbinger of something,
though I’ll be damned if—

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The Mattress We Chose

The salesman said, You’ll probably get
eight good years out of this baby.

With that, a future as soft and firm as flesh
flourished before our eyes, a spell cast deep
in the unstained wellsprings of fabric.
This was a bed for aging on,
flopping cruciform on, tired,
a bit overweight on, at the end of our days.

Where will we be in eight years?
A raft of arguments, no doubt. Sweaty
summer sheets that need washing. A
breast cancer scare? The Sunday mornings
ruined by unconscionable cats screaming
for their breakfast? More grey hair found
in the thatches of my chest.

Yet, what I murmured under my breath was:
That’s a lot of sex – a thousand and forty
(at our present rate) steamy acts
of coupling. The wife laughed.
Yeah, right!

But I held my ground.
Could this bed, this marathon sack,
this Let’s grow old together mattress
handle all that?

The salesman blanched when I asked him.
He was no prophet of variable lust.
He was merely selling a place to lay
our burdens down.

—Mark Sampson

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Mark Sampson has published three novels – Off Book (Norwood Publishing, 2007), Sad Peninsula (Dundurn Press, 2014), and The Slip (Dundurn Press, 2017) – and a short story collection, called The Secrets Men Keep (Now or Never Publishing, 2015). He also has a book of poetry, Weathervane, published by Palimpsest Press in 2016. His stories, poems, essays and book reviews have appeared widely in journals in Canada and the United States. Mark holds a journalism degree from the University of King’s College in Halifax and a master’s degree in English from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Originally from Prince Edward Island, he now lives and writes in Toronto.

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